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Artfix Daily

Go-Go Gauguin! A Sumptuous Floral Still Life and a Charcoal Sketch Now at Rau Antiques

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ARTFIX DAILY, April 7, 2011--

Gauguin lovers usually recall the lush landscapes and voluptuous women that Gauguin painted using his trademark bold brushstrokes and muted colors during his self-imposed exile in Tahiti that began in 1891.

Others may or may not know that Gauguin was involved in a quarrel with van Gogh in Arles, France, with whom he was staying in 1888 for nine weeks, when van Gogh's ear got sliced off.

Regardless of Gauguin's temper, and whether or not he chopped off van Gogh's ear, clearly Gauguin's artistic talent shaped him into the Post-Impressionist master that serious art collectors vie for at high profile auctions. The recent retrospective at the Tate Modern that ended in January,helped spur a renewed interest in his body of work.

Rau Antiques in New Orleans, the country's largest gallery of antiques and fine arts from the 18th and 19th centuries, has two impeccable Gauguin works in its inventory.

Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin's artistic career really took off after his job as a stockbroker came to an abrupt end in 1884, following the Paris stock market crash of 1882.  He had painted in this free time, and in his early, formative years of painting, Gauguin formed an alliance with Camille Pissarro and Paul Cézanne in the early 1880's. Gauguin even exhibited in the Impressionist exhibitions in 1881 and 1882.

GauguinThis wonderful still life below, "Flowers in a Vase with a Musical Score" (1874-1876), was created during a time when painting had been a hobby for him. Without the worry of the financial uncertainties that shaped his decision to pursue art as a full-time career, this example of his work is very classic yet colorful and fluid-a born master of the canvas. A vivid blue vase is full of pale pastel and white flowers nearing their peak, with several stems at the base of the vase, either in the process of being placed in the vase, or having been left there.  The vase is set on top of many sheets of music. The overall tone is soft and romantic.

It is in this composition that the viewer can discern the technical proficiency that attracted the attention and admiration of fellow artists including Camille Pissarro, Vincent van Gogh and Edgar Degas. It was Pissarro who convinced Gauguin to enter a painting to the Salon of 1876. Pissarro and Degas were so taken by his work that they invited Gauguin to exhibit at the 1879 Impressionist Exhibition and subsequent exhibitions thereafter. Pissarro took Gauguin under his wing, schooling him in the Impressionist technique, of which the current work is a perfect example.

"Fleurs dans un vase avec partition musicale" is an outstanding still-life displaying Gauguin's remarkable eye for composition. Thickly-layered paint and luminous colors, hallmarks of Gauguin's distinctive style, are used to their utmost effect in this remarkable oil.

This painting is accompanied by a letter of authenticity by The Art Loss Register and is featured in the Wildenstein catalogue raisonné on the artist. Paintings by Gauguin hardly ever become available for acquisition. This particular work was executed early in the artist's career, and is indescribably rare since he created so few compositions during this period.

Another seminal work that Rau Antiques is offering is entitled "Aline" and is a chalk and charcoal sketch on paper of his daughter (1884; $495,000).  Bold strokes outline the body, but then become soft and shadowy.  With her back turned to the viewer, Aline appears shy and reserved.  One wonders what she is thinking.

Admirers of Gauguin can view these two works, and other masterpieces by Gauguin's contemporaries, at Rau Antiques in New Orleans' French Quarter, the country's largest antiques and fine arts dealer.  Founded in 1912, Rau Antiques has remained a family owned business and has been tapped to source some of the world's most unique art treasures for private collections and museums.


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